Planning three meals a day is making me crazy! - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 7 Old 06-26-2009, 04:49 PM - Thread Starter
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Ok, it isn't just the planning, it is the cooking too. Currently, I meal plan, prep, cook and clean for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for our family of five (soon to be six). I have one particularly picky 6yo and a snack-driven 3yo. DH, me and 10yo are easy to please. With all kids home for the summer (and me insanely preggo), I feel like I spend all day in the kitchen!

I've made a few things straight-forward:
  • I throw ingredients in the bread machine each morning for a loaf of sweet bread as the afternoon snack.
  • I make a ton of pancakes (or waffles) on Sunday mornings and freeze the leftovers for two mornings of breakfast a week. The other mornings are oatmeal or smoothies.
  • We have three dinners a week that are exactly the same (each kid got to pick their favorite meal).

I still feel like I am doing a lot of prep/cooking/cleaning. I'd love suggestions for how to simplify!!

I am considering, for summer only until the two oldest go back to school, making ONE meal a day (lunch/dinner, if you will). In other words, throwing everything in the crock in the morning for a super-simple soup or stew or casserole meal that everyone can dip into all day -- or pulling something prepped out of the freezer (lasagne, enchiladas, etc), heating and eating off of it for both meals as needed.

This would put the bulk of my kitchen-time in the AM and then I can just serve during the remainder of the day. Plus, it would greatly lessen the number of dishes I do daily!

Has anyone else done this or something like it? How do you keep cooking simple? TIA!!!

Mom to : DS1 (11), DS2 (8), DD3 (4), : DS4 (1), and : : :
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#2 of 7 Old 06-26-2009, 05:50 PM
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We do cold cereal, granola or frozen waffles/pancakes for breakfast (Once or twice a month I do "breakfast for dinner" and make huge batches and freeze them). So I don't plan for breakfast AT ALL.

Lunches are almost always leftovers or sandwhiches. Once again, not (typically) planned. Personally, I love beans & mexican type stuff, so often do burritos (WW tortillas, add beans, nuke for 60 seconds, add grated cheese, onions & salsa) or nachos (tortilla ships on plate, top with beans, cheese, onions & jalapenos and put in oven for a few minutes till all warm/melted together). Occasionally, we'll do a box of annies mac'n cheese, though I've been trying to get away from that. Crackers, pepperoni, cheese & pizza sauce is another favorite around here. Basicly though, lunches are super simple and little to no cooking required.

Dinners I do plan/cook. But as I don't bother to cook/plan for the rest of the day, its not too bad. Mostly my planning involves keeping track of what we've had recently and what I'm planning on making for the next week or two. I have a spreadsheet going back nearly two years now, color coded for main dish (vegetarian, seafood, chicken, pork, beef, venison, goat, leftovers/out), which makes it easy to look back and see what I haven't made in a while in order to keep things interesting. HTH!!
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#3 of 7 Old 06-26-2009, 09:56 PM
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Yes, same here- never plan for breakfasts and hardly plan lunch.

Breakfast is usually a hot 7 grain cereal with honey and milk, oatmeal with cream and maple syrup, yogurt with granola and/or fruit. On weekends I might make pancakes, french toast from homemade bread made for lunch the day before (I sometimes do this during the week, too!), or eggs and bacon. None of those things take planning because I usually have the ingredients on hand.

Lunches I often eat bread topped with whatever- cheese, peanut butter, jam, butter, etc. or a sandwich, and we try to have some homemade stock with it too. Maybe a leftover from the night before- this is the best option imo. For example if we had soup the night before I put some in the freezer for another meal, and some in the fridge for lunch the next day. Works for a lot of meals.

I have to plan dinners, and this is our big meal of the day and really the only one I do a lot of 'cooking' for, as in chopping, cooking, etc. Although yes there's always dishes from breakfast and lunch too but not nearly as much as for dinner. And I usually try to make an extra big batch and freeze some for a lazy night- my fave freezer meals are soups and lasagna. This cuts down on lots of dishes and time. As you go along you think of little tricks to save time and mess- for example at the start of the month I always chop all the ingredients for all our pizza nights for the month-peppers, pepperoni, etc- then on pizza night instead of having to chop everything every time I just pull the ingredients out of the freezer and it's done!

Oh, I also often save my old meal plan lists and reuse them! I plan two weeks of meals at a time. I may switch that to monthly. I write out the meals, then go through and write out what I'll need for this weeks meals and next weeks. Then I make one list for the supermarket, and another for the market. I only go to the supermarket once or twice a month, the market weekly.
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#4 of 7 Old 06-27-2009, 10:10 AM
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That would drive me batty, and I have one child and love to cook.

The 6 and 10 year old would be on their own. I'd make sure I have healthy ingredients easily accessible and then let them decide and build their own sandwich, microwave leftovers.

I meal plan supper and that is it. I do make lunch for dd (7), but that's only 1 kid that will literally eat anything, so it's easy peasy. She gets her own breakfast, though.
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#5 of 7 Old 06-28-2009, 12:48 AM - Thread Starter
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granola_mom, your cooking routine sounds a lot like mine... and I am still too overwhelmed. ;-)

Part of it may be that I make most things from scratch as we are on a VERY tight food budget these days, so there is a mess factor with every meal. We don't buy any pre-packaged snacks, for example, so there is a homemade bread mess or a granola bar mess or a trail mix mess or whatever, and that's just for snacks!

Well, I finished the July meal plan and did all the July food shopping today, and I will be cooking 5 meals a week and using leftovers for lunches and the two remaining dinners. Snacks will be fruit, smoothies or fresh bread. Breakfasts will be oatmeal with a choice of toppings or mixins, or leftover bread from the day before.

Most of the meals are super-simple and easy enough for one of the older kids to help with. Everything passes the "DS2 Test" (my picky eater -- there should be something he likes to eat for every meal, lol).

I think we're going to replace the dishwasher (which has been broken for some time) with an under-counter freezer. That way, I have a place for all the ready-to-eat leftovers and I can use the fridge/freezer for all of the ingredients.

Mom to : DS1 (11), DS2 (8), DD3 (4), : DS4 (1), and : : :
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#6 of 7 Old 06-29-2009, 05:42 PM
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I don't usually cook more than once per day except on weekends.
We keep a lot of low prep items on hand for breakfast, lunch and snacks.

breakfast- bagel, yogurt, cereal, oatmeal, leftovers, sandwich, fruit
lunch- sandwich, soup, leftovers
snack- hard boiled eggs, cheese, fruit, pretzels, dry cereal, crackers, yogurt, hummus

Kim ~mom to one awesome dd (12)

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#7 of 7 Old 07-01-2009, 05:40 AM
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Well, I menu plan all three meals and pretty much cook every meal. The way you make it easier is to plan certain things that you can rely on every day...Do things that are consistent.

For instance, I know that every lunch, we will have vanilla yogurt and fresh or frozen fruit, so I always have that on hand. I can buy big packages of it and just slap it on the plate with the one cooked option. I make a big batch of muffins and freeze them, rotating out the kind every week. On a morning I don't feel up to par, I can nuke them and serve with fruit and milk. I also use a box of cereal for these days. Since the cereal is not an everyday thing, it can last for a little over a month. Serve it with fresh or frozen fruit, also.

I also do the whole roasted chicken thing (this week as a matter of fact). I buy a 5 dollar whole chicken (big as I can find) at the grocery store. I roast it, and serve it (one small piece per person) with potato casserole, rolls and green beans for two days. The rest of the meat is picked off and placed in a different container. I use that for chicken salad sandwiches. I only serve each person a half a sandwich, as they get yogurt and fruit with it for lunch, and this cuts down on the amount of meat and bread we use. The chicken that is not used is kept in the fridge. All the remnants of the chicken (including what was left on people's plates) goes into a big stock pot with remnants from various veggies I keep in the freezer instead of throwing away. I cover it with enough water to cover and add a little organic ACV to pull out all the nutrients. Once it is cooled, pull out all the bones and skin. Pick off any more meat that will come off and throw away the left bones and skin. Take the veggie ends and pieces out and toss as well. Add fresh veggies to the stock and boil down until it reduces. Add any left over meat to this as well as any pasta or rice you have lying around. Fresh half and serve half for lunches for a few days.

If there is any left when people get sick of it, strain out meat, veggies, pasta/rice, and mix with fresh cooked pasta/rice, can of cream of chicken, and a little bit of the stock and place in a casserole. Top with cheese.

This made 2 meals of roasted chicken, one lunch of chicken salad, one lunch of soup, and one dinner of casserole. You also have one frozen soup to use next week, for either lunch or dinner.

Last week I used the left over soup and added a seasoning packet of each ranch mix and half of a taco seasoning one. I also added a can of corn, black beans, and rotel. This made southwestern chicken soup. Forze half, served it again later. Once it was heated, I added in a small block of velveeta and served with tortilla chips.

So for dinner those nights, I only bought the add ins.

Also, I make a big batch of brownies, cupcakes (keep unfrosted), cookies and no bake cheesecake on hand in the freezer. When it is time to get another snack out for the week, I just grab one of the things out of the freezer and place in the fridge. If something needs to be frosted, no it then. This cuts down on having to constantly think or cook snacks.

I generally spend about 50-60 dollars a week to feed the three of us and have PLENTY left in the fridge. This covers, snacks, drinks,fruit and veggies, three meals a day, and I add to my stock of snack mixes every week.

Also, I plan out two to three weeks at a time, and shop once a week, so when I plan on one side of a paper, on the other is the shopping list. If I have something on the list left over, I just cross it off before I go. This cuts down on all the time I spend thinking about it. Open the binder, grab this weeks sheet, and run out the door.

I hope you can find your groove.
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